Skip to content

Burke: 'You'll see Jesus before you see a team back in Hartford'

Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Brian Burke doesn't see a spot for Hartford on the NHL map.

Appearing on "Sportsnet's Starting Lineup" on Wednesday, and asked whether the NHL's return to the Connecticut capital is a possibility, Burke retorted, "You'll see Jesus before you see a team back in Hartford."

The former general manager of the Hartford Whalers - from 1992-1993 - described a desolate market that was known as the "roaring '80s" during his tenure, noting that many big employers and high-paying jobs uprooted for nearby Manhattan.

The resulting loss of industry and jobs eventually stripped away at the local economy and contributed to the Whalers moving to Raleigh, N.C. in 1997, where the club rebranded as the Carolina Hurricanes.

Despite the loss in Hartford, the passion for the team still exists. Recent years have seen Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy leading those discussions, as he's floated the idea of renovating the XL Center - the Whalers' former home - to lure the NHL's return. He also invited the nearby New York Islanders, then in search of a new arena, to make their digs in the old barn.

Earlier this season, the Hurricanes, under new owner Thomas Dundon, paid tribute to the franchise's legacy, bringing back team gear with the iconic Whalers logo and the unforgettable Brass Bonanza goal song.

Meanwhile in Hartford, while the XL Center now houses AHL hockey, the market itself is still seemingly behind Seattle, Houston, and Quebec City on the NHL's expansion radar.

As for Burke, the former president of hockey operations with the Calgary Flames resigned from the club earlier this week, later accepting a role with Sportsnet as a playoff analyst.

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox